House 2008: Another Retirement Nightmare for the GOP

Things just keep getting worse and worse for House Republicans. The week began with an announcement by GOP Congressman Jim Ramstad, who represents a marginally Republican district in the Minneapolis suburbs, that he would not be seeking reelection this cycle, putting his seat very much up for grabs. Now comes reports out of Illinois that Jerry Weller, who represents a similarly marginal district, will not run for reelection, opening up his seat. The Chicago Tribune has the story.

Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) is set to announce his retirement in the near future, two Republican sources tell the Tribune. One of the sources said the announcement could come as early as tomorrow.

Weller's spokesman did immediately not return a call seeking comment.

Weller, a seven-term incumbent, has faced questions about his re-election intentions all month, following a Tribune investigation that revealed he failed to disclose several land transactions in Nicaragua on his congressional ethics forms.

The Tribune also reported last week that a charity formed by Weller's wife, Zury Rios de Weller of Guatemala, raised questions about whether Weller could legally exclude her assets from his congressional filings.

As noted above, Weller's district, Illinois 11th (Western Chicago suburbs and some of Central Illinois), is only marginally Republican in its make up. According to the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voting Index it leans only about a point more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections. As the Report (subsription required; .pdf) noted back in May, "[T]his is not a safely Republican district. There are 38 Democrats who sit in districts that have a PVI equal to or more Republican than this one." What's more, the Report also pointed out that Will County, which makes up about half of the district's vote, has seen a shift in recent years from the Republicans to the Democrats, with Rod Blagojevich, for instance, increasing his vote share from 44 percent to 52 percent in the county from 2002 to 2006.

While this may be one of those rare situations in which it is better for the incumbent party not to have the incumbent on the ballot due to ethics or corruption issues, this news still comes as a blow to the House GOP, which is desperately trying to limit the number of open seat races it must defend -- particularly in highly competitive districts. While the Democrats are no doubt going to need to find a strong candidate to run in the district if they hope to win, I'd probably put money on the Democrats to pick up this seat before I would on the Republicans to hold it.

Tags: culture of corruption, House 2008, IL-11, Illinois, Retirements (all tags)



House 2008: GOP Dreaming Nightmares

All these retirements... They make me feel so good.  I feel like I can taste some sense of wholesome goodness beneath these retirements... I love it.  

Here's a quick look at all our retiring Republicans...

Senators Allard (CO), Warner (VA), Craig (ID), and Hagel (NE).

Representatives Hunter (CA-52), Pickering (MS-03), LaHood (IL-18), Hastert (IL-14), Pryce (OH-15), Renzi (AZ-01), Ramstad (MN-03), Davis (VA-11), Weller (IL-11).  

Four senators and nine representatives.  (I know Davis isn't official yet, but he's got staffers for his race.)    

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-09-19 04:03PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: GOP Dreaming Nightmares

I should also add, the current candidate being worked on by the DCCC and strongest candidate would be State Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson.  EMILY's list is working on getting her to run, and as the state senate majority leader, she has an established position in the district.

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-09-19 04:04PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: GOP Dreaming Nightmares

I hope Halvorsen runs, but some think she won't as she has an opportunity to become the first ever female Senate President.  Emil Jones isn't very popular these days, so she has a an opportunity.  Plus, her role in the mess in Springfield could hurt her in a campaign (guilt by association, mostly).  

That said, she is probably our best candidate at this point.

Interesting that the Tribune took Weller down, as the Tribune is a Republican paper, and I'd bet has a long history of endorsing Weller, no matter how vile the man is/was.

by JJCPA 2007-09-19 05:10PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: GOP Dreaming Nightmares

Actually, last cycle the Tribune refused to endorse either candidate stating that Weller was making a big mistake but not admitting his conflict of interest in Central America. I guess they were on to him for a long time.

by AC4508 2007-09-19 10:24PM | 0 recs
In a presidential year, especially if Hillary wins

,that seat as well as Ramstad's MN seat, should be ours.

by jgarcia 2007-09-19 04:20PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Another Retirement Nightmare for t

Its not western Chicago suburbs, its fringe southern burbs, including part of Joliet.  Most of the district is rural, and it snakes all the way down to the west-side of Bloomington, which is the only Democratic stronghold in that town.

It also contains Kankakee, a very distant increasingly exurban area.  The area is reportedly the most union-intense in the state though.

Weller kept winning because he brought roads money into the district, which won the unions over.

Here's a map: _congressional_district.gif

Very little Chicagoland there, except for the area around Joliet, and some exurban development snaking toward Kankakee, and along the Indiana border.

by JJCPA 2007-09-19 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Another Retirement Nightmare for t

oops, IL-11 is the most union intense district in the state from what I hear.  Not Kankakee necessarily.  

Here's some interesting discussion on Weller from Rich Miller's weller-under-siege-may-not-run/#comments

Miller is the best political reporter in the state, in case you're wondering...

by JJCPA 2007-09-19 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Another Retirement Nightmare for t
Nearly half of the population base of the district is in Will County. Joliet and the far southwest suburban "Lincoln Way" area (New Lenox, Frankfort, Mokena, Manhattan) make up about 200,000 people right there. Then it stretches far west about two hours to LaSalle County- the second biggest county in the district- and down south to McClean County.
Halvorson is really considering running, though in the end I dont think she will pull the trigger. I believe state sen. AJ Wilhelmi will not run because its widely known that his wife will not permit him to do so. That wipes out two of the Trib's three suggested Dem candidates, leaving just little-known state rep. Careen Gordon. If Halvorson doesnt run, it will be a wide open field.
by AC4508 2007-09-19 10:23PM | 0 recs


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